14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
6-9 year olds
(Adults, begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child, unless the child is a very fluent reader.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear an invitation and a promise. Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people. The disciples are there, and some Pharisees. The rest of the crowd are ordinary people. Sinners, mostly. Jesus speaks to all the people gathered, inviting them to,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
I wonder what the people think when they hear this. I wonder if they look around at each other, trying to see who is carrying a heavy burden. No one is carrying anything! They all have put down whatever they were carrying on the ground when Jesus began to speak. Who is Jesus talking to?
As the crowd of sinners looks around at each other, I wonder if they realize what kind of burden Jesus is talking about. I wonder if they realize that sin can be a burden. When we have done something that we know is wrong, we know that we have chosen not to help build the Kingdom of God. In fact, we know that when we hurt someone with our actions or our words, we are actually breaking down the Kingdom. We have blocked the flow of the Holy Spirit into our branch of the True Vine. When we become aware of this, our hearts feel heavy. Our arms and legs feel thick with sin. We might laugh and smile on the outside, but on the inside, something heavy has dropped into the pit of our stomachs. It doesn't feel good, does it? Sin can be a very heavy burden indeed.
There are Pharisees in the crowd, too. Is Jesus speaking to them? Pharisees are people who very carefully do what God requires. They faithfully worship God, they faithfully take care of the poor. They are like most of us.
Unfortunately, some of them--not all, but some--think that they are better than everyone else. Some of them have forgotten that everyone sins. These Pharisees do not even realize that they also carry a burden of sin, because they compare themselves to others. Instead, they label other people as sinners and refuse to speak to them or include them in the life of the town. They make it difficult for sinners to return to God. They make the burden that people carry even heavier.
What does Jesus do? He invites and he promises.
Come to me
Who is he inviting?
Sinners, Pharisees, disciples.
All who carry those heavy burdens and are exhausted by sin.
All who feel excluded.
All who feel not good enough.
All who know their need.
And he promises,
I will give you rest.
This reminds me of that great psalm--that prayer that is so sweet it is almost a song--about the Good Shepherd:
He lets me rest in fields of green grass (Psalm 23:1-2a)
He lets the sheep rest. The burden of sin is put down, and the sheep lies down in all that green grass. There is no hurry. There is no rush. There is no burden. All the time in the world to rest. Sacred time. Holy time. God's time.
When we know our burden of sin, when we know our need, we respond to the invitation that Jesus has already made.
Come to me
We go to him to be forgiven. We go to him to remove the blockage of sin in our branch of the True Vine. We go to him to take away--absolutely--our burden of sin.
We go to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Sacred time. Holy time. God's time.
We go to the sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can know ourselves forgiven. So that we can feel once again the flow of the Holy Spirit inside our branch. So that we can put down our burden of sin and receive Jesus' promise of rest.
And when we do, we know like the one who wrote the psalm knows, that
He gives me new strength.
Without the burden of sin, it is much easier to share Jesus' burden: building the Kingdom of God. And that burden is so much better! Jesus says,
“my burden is light.”